The lawyers of Eva Kaili on Thursday denounced inhumane detention conditions they likened to “torture.” She will remain in jail for another month, as Belgian prosecutors rejected Kaili’s request to be released with an electronic tag.
The former European Parliament vice president has been in jail for more than a month after being arrested and charged in a sprawling probe into whether foreign countries, including Qatar and Morocco, illegally influenced the Parliament’s work. The inquiry has also ensnared a former MEP, a parliamentary assistant and an NGO boss.
Kaili’s two lawyers said that she was placed in solitary confinement based merely on the whim of Belgian prosecutors.
According to her lawyers, Kaili was held from January 11 until January 13 in solitary confinement, where she was not allowed to have any contact with the outside world, including her lawyers. During this isolation, she was held in a prison room “in the cold and was refused a second blanket,” her lawyer Michalis Dimitrakopoulos said. He added that the light in her cell was constantly on, preventing her from sleeping, and that she wasn’t allowed to bathe despite menstruating.
“This is torture. This is the Middle Ages,” he said, reading a note in front of a packed press corps outside a hearing in a Brussels court.
In response, a spokesperson for the federal prosecutor said: “I haven’t heard anything about this in the file or at any other time.”
The hearing comes just two days after another suspect in the case, Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former Italian EU lawmaker at the center of the probe, struck a deal with the Belgian prosecutor to exchange information for a more lenient sentence.
Kaili’s lawyers hinted that she was held in confinement while the prosecutors were negotiating that plea deal.
Asked why she was held in isolation, André Risopolous, her Brussels-based lawyer, responded: “At the moment, the defense has no other lead than to say that the judicial authorities found that it was probably a good way to avoid [interference] while Mr. Panzeri was negotiating his own repentance procedure.”
He added that he would find it “shocking” if this was the reason why she was placed in solitary detention, as that procedure is used only rarely and in “mafia crimes.”
Asked whether they would lodge a complaint for inhumane treatment, Risopolous said: “Before taking [the] initiative to file a complaint for degrading, inhuman, unjustified treatment, I really want to know what happened. We will know it.”
Kaili is being held on preliminary charges of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization, which she denies via her lawyers.
“She denies that she is criminally responsible for belonging to a criminal organization and for the active laundering of [money],” said Risopolous.
The prison where she is being held, Haren in the north of Brussels, was only completed in the fall of 2022; as Belgium’s most-modern facility, the complex proclaims to be designed as a “humane prison.”
The Belgian federal police and the spokesperson of the prison administration at the Belgian justice ministry did not immediately respond to POLITICO’s request for comment.
Nektaria Stamouli contributed to the reporting.